“Music is my therapy. Putting my experiences, both deadly and life saving, into song have helped me to heal. I owe a great deal of my new life to my music.” - Jam Alker
Jam Alker knows it’s a miracle he’s alive today. As someone in long-term recovery from addiction, Jam Alker has made it his mission to share the healing powers of music. He’s made an unrelenting commitment to recovery activism, sharing the message that addiction is not failure and that recovery is possible through music and community.
After a decade in active addiction, Jam finally surrendered and decided to go to long-term treatment. When he was packing to leave, he grabbed his guitar on a whim, thinking it might help him pass the time. That “whim,” it turns out, put him on a trajectory to change his life.
Music helped him to process the trauma that led to his addiction. “What I found out was that drugs were not my problem; drugs were my solution to my problem.” The new solution, he decided, would be music, and so he began to create songs from his experiences that explore the despair that can compel bad decisions, without judgment or condemnation, but rather with hope. In 2017, he released his first solo album, Sophrosyne, which gave him the platform to spread the message of recovery.
Since then, he’s brought together some of Chicago’s best players to create a new five-piece band, The JAB. The JAB’s first album was released in early 2020.
In tandem, his music helped him reach a community of those suffering and recovering from addiction and give them hope. He brings his recovery perspective and his music to educate communities, high school and middle school students, recovery organizations, healthcare providers, and corporations, about the stigma of addiction and the hope of recovery. In 2019, he was invited to speak about addiction and recovery at both Google’s Palo Alto and Chicago headquarters.
Most compelling is that it’s not just addicts and their families who find kinship through his music; his message of redemption hits home for just about anyone who’s discontent. “My story is not unique,” Jam often says. “Everyone has unhealthy behaviors they go to in times of desperation.” His music and his message can help anyone looking for guidance and inspiration as they start their healing process, whatever healing it may be.
It was music that helped him change his life — and it’s music that continues to keep him on his path, which allows him to make impactful and authentic connections with those who might otherwise be lost.